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What is Kadaif?
All About the Greek and Middle Eastern Pastry

By Renee Shelton

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Kadaif is a pastry made from flour and water,and has a very neutral flavor Its naturally dry texture makes it suitable for desserts calling for syrups. Recipes with it usually call for melted butter to be brushed or poured onto the pastry before baking, much like phyllo. Kadaif is also called kataifi, kadaife, kanafeh, konafa, or 'shredded phyllo dough.'

Besides being used as a foundation for a pastry item or dessert, it can also be buttered, formed into shapes, dusted with sugar and baked for a garnish, which makes a nice accompaniment for fruit desserts.

This description of how kadaife is made comes from The Complete Book of Greek Cooking by the Recipe Club of Saint Paul's Orthodox Cathedral, which has a wealth of Greek definitions and cooking techniques as well as recipes:

Kadaife is pastry that is available in 1-pound packages at various Greek specialty shops. The dough is made out of flour and water, combined into a thick batter. The batter is poured into a perforated tin having about fifteen "teeth." This tin is held over a metal hot plate. As the batter is poured through the tin onto the hot metal, the kadaife partially cooks and dries into long thin strands resembling noodles or shredded wheat. It is tightly rolled up into oblong rolls and packaged.


Image above: Traditional kadaif, courtesy Klearchos Kapoutsis via a CC license.

As with phyllo dough, it is best used when you are ready to use it: get all your ingredients and equipment ready (your mise en place) before opening up the package as it dries out quickly. Some tips for usage from the above mentioned book:

  • When separating the rolls in the package, pull the strands gently to loosen them.
  • Always keep it covered to prevent the dough from drying out.
  • Your mise en place should be all in place before handling/opening the kadaif.
  • When doing recipes that call for the kadaif to be used flat, work the kadaife in two parts, keeping the half you are not using immediately to prevent drying out.
  • When doing recipes that call for the kadaif to be rolled up with filling, gently separate the strands from the package into strips. A one pound package, if separated into roughly mounds 10 to 12 inches long by about 3 inches wide, yields 24 sections for 24 rolls. After spooning the filling at one end, squeeze and roll forming a tight jelly-roll style roll.
  • As with phyllo, kadaif can be frozen. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Kadaif / Kadaife Recipes

Below are two recipes using kadaife: one is for using the pastry flat and the other is for using the pastry in rolls. Both are adapted from The Complete Book of Greek Cooking, and are easy enough for anyone to try working with kadaife.

Flat Kadaife (Kadaife Tapsiou)
A simple dessert containing the kadaife pastry, syrup and a nut mixture for the filling. For this recipe, the kadaife is kept whole, flat.

For the Syrup:
6 cups water
4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 stick cinnamon

For the Nut Filling:
2 cups walnuts, chopped
2 cups unblanched almonds, chopped
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 lb. kadaife
3/4 lb. unsalted butter, melted (3 sticks)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9" x 13" baking pan.

Make the syrup first and cool: Place the water, sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon stick in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Reserve until needed.

For the nut filling, combine the nuts, sugar and cinnamon. Open the package of kadaife. Be sure if it is frozen that it has thawed out overnight in the refrigerator rather than on the countertop. Gently separate the rolls of pastry and loosen strands. Divide the kadaife in half and place half in the reserved, buttered baking dish. Brush or drizzle evenly half of the melted butter over the top. Sprinkle the nut cinnamon mixture evenly. Place the remaining kadaife over the nut mixture and brush on the remaining melted butter over the top of the dessert. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown. As soon as the dessert is removed from the oven, pour all of the syrup over the baked kadaife. Cover it with a towel and let stand at room temperature until cool. Cut into squares. May be frozen with the syrup. Simply thaw at room temperature before service.


Kadaife Rolls (Kadaife Roula)
If separated as directed, this recipe will make 24 rolls.

For the Lemon Cinnamon Syrup:
2 1/2 cup water
4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh grated lemon zest
1 cinnamon stick

For the Filling:
2 cups walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup ground zwieback
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Cognac
1 t ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 pound kadaife
3/4 pound unsalted
melted butter (3 sticks)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

For the syrup: Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

For the filling: Combine all ingredients. Gently remove the kadaife from the package. Loosen, and separate the strands into 24 separate pieces, about 10 to 12 inches long by 3 inches wide. Place one rounded tablespoon of the filling at one end of the pastry. Roll up, squeezing to make the roll tight. Place on an ungreased baking pan with sides. Roll up the rest of the kadaife strips. Brush each roll with about one tablespoon of the melted butter. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. As soon as the rolls come from the oven, evenly pour the syrup over all. Cover loosely and let stand until the syrup as been absorbed. May be frozen after baked and finished; thaw at room temperature for about 1 hour before service.

References used:

The Recipe Club of Saint Paul's Greek Orthodox Cathedral. The Complete Book of Greek Cooking.
      New York: Harper, 1990.

Image of Kadaif Dessert via Wikimedia Commons, User Apostoloff via a CC license.

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